Declaration Project


Faculty: John Bailly


Eugene Delacroix . Liberty Leading the People, 1830. Musee du Louvre.

France has a long history of human rights advocacy: the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, the abolition of monarchy, the separation of religion from the public realm, the end of noble privileges, the decriminalization of homosexuality, the abolition of slavery, and a social support structure that includes universal healthcare. These revolutionary advances, however, are contrasted by the brutal and hypocritical repression of elements of society: the Reign of Terror, Colonialism, torture in the Algerian war, La Rafle during WW2, police brutality in the banlieues, and racial tensions in contemporary France. The perfect embodiment of this contrast is WW2: on one side are French Collaborators serving the Germans, on the other are the French Resistance fighting underground in alliance with the Allies.

“The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man…” – Declaration of the Rights of Man, 1789 (entire text below)

This project aims to foster student reflection on individual freedom. How has the history of human rights in France (from the French Revolution to World War 2) impacted contemporary life? Students are to select one historical figure or event and to reflect on how this has impacted their personal status in society or their life in a broader sense. The figure can be an advocate or opponent of human rights.

The Honors College is interdisciplinary in nature and welcomes new approaches to course projects.

The format the Declaration Project takes is open: fiction, non-fiction, prose, poetry, drawing, painting, film, sculpture, collage, photography, or other means. The final product, however, must be submitted digitally. Projects must be presented in class. This can be a film screening, a reading, or a slideshow.

If making a film, existing images may be appropriated, but they must be altered in some manner. For example, the work must be heavily edited heavily or distorted it in some manner. Actors, editors and/or other film crew may be recruited, under the condition that the student retain the role of director. The film must be the student’s ideas and he/she must oversee every aspect of it, but responsibilities must be delegated.

Films and slideshows must be uploaded onto the internet, on Facebook or Youtube (free). Please make sure to test your upload prior to attending class. 

These following factors will be considered in determining the project grade.

Familiarity with subject
The nature of the connection between student and subject
The broader context of the student’s reflection (Can others relate to the points made in the project)
Originality of content

Below is a list of figures and events to select from. If the student wishes to select another, that choice needs to be approved by the professor. Each character or event may only be selected by one student.

Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431)
Louis XIV (1638 – 1715)

Joseph-Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814)

Nicolas de Condorcet (1743-1794)
Olympe de Gouges (1748 – 1793)
Jacques-Louis David (1748 – 1825)
Jean-Jacques-Regis de Cambaceres (1753-1824)
Louis XVI (1754 – 1793)
Marie Antoinette (1755-1793)
Marquis de La Fayette (1757-1834)
Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794)
Georges Danton (1759 – 1794)
Camille Desmoulins (1760 – 1794)
Marie-Madeleine Fourcade (1909 – 1989)

Francois Jacob (1920 – 2013)
Pauline Léon (1768 – 1838)
Marc Bloch (1886 – 1944)
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)
Charles de Gaulle (1890 – 1970)

Jean Moulin (1899 – 1943)

Lucie Aubrac (1912 – 2007) and Raymond Aubrac (1914 – 2012)
Tom Morel (1915 – 1944)
Rose Valland

A World War II veteran that participated in the battles in France

A French Resistance fighter from WW2

French Revolution (any particular law or event is acceptable)
World War II (any particular battle or event is acceptable)

Approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789

The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all. Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:

1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.
2. The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
3. The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.
4. Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.
5. Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.
6. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.
7. No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.
8. The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.
9. As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner’s person shall be severely repressed by law.
10. No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.
11. The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.
12. The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.
13. A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.
14. All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.
15. Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.
16. A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.
17. Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.